The most beautiful places in Herefordshire, England’s least known county

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And although Herefordshire is one of Britain’s least populated counties, the fields teem with life: hanging fruit or ripening hops or the famous Hereford cattle, their brown bodies as square as the rear of a London bus. Yet amidst the rusticity of it all, there are pockets of enormous sophistication, like the exquisite Michelin-starred restaurant at Pensons, or the equally chic fine-dining restaurant that’s attached to this former inn in Aymestrey. And what makes it work is that everything – the deliciously clever plates of food, the idiosyncratic hotels and the niche distilleries – is rooted like a crab apple tree in the soil of Le Marche.

Apples, in all their prodigious variety, are ubiquitous – the local ingredient par excellence, like truffles in Périgord. At Pensons, one of the dishes on the five-course tasting menu consisted of plaice garnished with the smallest cubes of tart apple and a kind of seaweed salt: absolutely fabulous. In the National Trust gardens in Brockhampton, orchards are planted according to geographical area of ​​origin – a sort of pomological Mappa Mundi, in fact, where each orchard-continent is surrounded by a fence designed to look like a bowl of fruit in wood. There seems to be an experimental cider house on each trail. One of the best and most inventive is Little Pomona, owned by former drinks writer Susanna Forbes. “Think of it as a low-alcohol wine,” she says of her 7% blended “table cider” made from Egremont Russets. “Two hundred years ago, it was the drink of the nobility; every big house had its own cider house, and a good barrel was as prized as Burgundy. We want to be part of the cider renaissance and we want to share it with people.

Chess table at the Bridge Inn

Forbes is evangelical about Herefordshire and what it has to offer. Everyone who lives here seems to be the same: narrowly patriotic in the nicest way possible. When Herefordians talk about places “across the border”, they are just as likely to mean Worcestershire as neighboring Wales. “Oh, you’ve come a long way,” they tell the visitors, and seem genuinely puzzled that the visitors have made the effort to go that far. “People think we’re sleepy old Herefordshire, but that’s because it’s a place that’s slowly revealing its appeal,” says Peta Darnley, owner of Let’s Think. “The county is actually full of smart craftsmen and entrepreneurs, and we have some of the best food and drink in England.”

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